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CPSR - CPU, Issue 12

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Issue: 012 CPU: Working in the Computer Industry 11/30/94

CPU is a moderated forum dedicated to sharing information among workers in the computer industry.



  2. /*COMMENTS*/







  9. EOF


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CPU back issues can be found via anonymous FTP at either in /cpsr/work or in /pub/CPSR/work. Hard copy subscriptions are available for $30 per year.

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PLEASE RE-POST THIS FREELY, especially at work. CPU material may be reprinted for non-profit purposes as long as the source is cited. We welcome submissions and commentary. Mail sent to the editors or to CPU will be treated as a "letter to the editor" and considered printable, unless noted otherwise.

CPU is a project of the "Working in the Computer Industry" working group of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility / berkeley Chapter.

Editors for this issue: Michael Stack and Jim Davis. We may be contacted by voice at (510) 601-6740, by email to, or by USPS at PO Box 3181, Oakland, CA 94609.

CPU is a project of the "Working in the Computer Industry" working group of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility / Berkeley Chapter (though views expressed herein are not necessarily those of CPSR... and while we're at it, neither may they be those of our employers).


Thought we'd never make it. This issue is about 60 days later than planned -- not bad for a Microsoft, but our apologies to our readers and recent subscribers, who may be wondering...

Work intervened, and other personal and political responsibilities. We could use some help though -- send in news items, things you see on the net that fit with CPU's mission of sharing news, rumors, resources, perspectives, etc. of working in the computer industry.

This issue is mostly stuff collected from other sources, plus a larger than usual section of Labor Bytes.

Have a happy holidays, and look for us next year...



Sender: (JeanRenard Ward)
Subject: Certification for Professions in computing

The argument that technologies and standards in computing change too fast for certification to work fails with at least one very obvious counter-example:

Physicians are both professionally unionized, and certified by the state. (Actually, in most states they are certified by a board of other practicing physicians, acting for the state.) There are specialized certification boards for the different medical specialties. It is also a highly technical field where technologies and basic medical understanding in the specialties change often.

Engineers __are__ professionally unionized and certified in Europe. Clearly, a higher level of unemployment and lower level of professional respect and personal incomes in the U.S. compared to western Europe could be taken as an obvious argument __for__ certification.

Subject: Objection to language in CPU #11

To the Editor:

Is CPU supposed to be a respectable on-line publication? If so, why are you printing an article entitled "PISS-POT: CONTRACTOR REFUSES TEST, LOSES JOB?" I was willing to overlook the title but the article's body contained the same unnecessary inappropriate language. Perhaps I haven't read carefully enough in the past and back alley gutter slang is the general writing style of contributors to CPU. If that is the case, this is not a publication for me.

John Desmond


Although the enclosed fact sheet from The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse only applies to California, it might provide a model for other jurisdictions worldwide.

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse has a new gopher of useful legal and practical stuff about privacy. Telnet to (or and log in as "privacy".

Date: Wed, 21 Sep 1994 14:24:47 -0700 (PDT)
From: Christine Harbs
Subject: Privacy Rights Clearinghouse

The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse
The Center for Public Interest Law
5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110
(619) 260-4806
(619) 260-4753 (fax)

Hotline: +1 800-773-7748 (Calif. only)
         +1 619-298-3396

Fact sheet No. 16
Copyright 1994, Center for Public Interest Law
August 1994

Employment Background Checks: A Jobseeker's Guide

**Why would an employer want to do a background check?

Whether you are hired or promoted for a job may depend on the information gathered by the employer in a background check. Employers use them to verify the accuracy of information provided by jobseekers. Background reports may also uncover information left out of the application or interview.

Today, more employers are being sued for "negligent hiring" for not checking carefully enough into the background of a potential employee. If an employee's action hurts someone, the employer may be liable. That is one reason more background checks are being conducted.

The "information age" also accounts for the increase in background checks--the availability of computer databases containing millions of records of personal data. As the cost of searching these sources drops, employers are finding it more feasible to conduct background checks.

**I don't have anything to hide. Why should I worry?

While some people are not concerned about background investigations, others are uncomfortable with the idea of an investigator poking around in their personal history. In-depth background checks could unearth information that is irrelevant, taken out of context or just plain wrong.

A further concern is that the report might include information that is illegal to use for hiring purposes or which comes from questionable sources. Since in most cases employers are not required to tell applicants that a background check is being done, jobseekers may not have the opportunity to respond to negative or misleading data.

**What types of information might be included in a background check?

Background reports can range from a verification of an applicant's Social Security number to a detailed account of the potential employee's history and acquaintances. Here are some of the pieces of information that might be included in a background check:

- Driving records   - Vehicle registration   - Credit records
- Criminal records  - Social Security no.    - Education records
- Court records     - Workers' compensation  - Bankruptcy
- Character references  - Neighbor interviews    - Medical records
- Property ownership     - Employment verification
- Military service records   - State licensing records

**Which companies conduct background checks?

There are many companies that specialize in conducting pre- employment background checks. They typically use public records databases to compile reports. The following is a partial list of companies that perform a variety of services for employment background checking: Avert, Interfact, Equifax Employment Services, CDB Infotek, Employers Mutual Assoc., Employers Information Service, Trans Union, Information Resource Service Co., Pinkerton Security & Investigation Services.

With the information age upon us, it is easier for employers to gather background information themselves. Much of it is computerized, allowing employers to "log on" to public records and commercial databases directly through commercial online services.

Employers may also create a "clearinghouse" of information about potential employees. A group of employers establish a data exchange program to screen applicants. The database is comprised of information submitted by the member companies about their employees. When a jobseeker submits an application to a member company, that employer will check with the clearinghouse for information on the applicant.

**What types of information *can't* the employer consider?

Federal and state laws limit the types of information employers can use in hiring decisions.

  • Arrest information. Although arrest record information is public record, in California employers cannot seek out the arrest record of a potential employee. However, if the arrest resulted in a conviction, or if the applicant is out of jail but pending trial, that information can be used. (California Labor Code @ 432.7)

  • Criminal history. In California, criminal histories or "rap sheets" compiled by law enforcement agencies are not public record. Only certain employers such as public utilities, law enforcement, security guard firms, and child care facilities have access to this information. With the advent of computerized court records and arrest information, however, there are private companies that compile virtual "rap sheets." (California Penal Code @@ 11105, 13300)

  • Workers' compensation. When an employee's claim goes through the state system or the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board, the case becomes public record. Only if an injury might interfere with one's ability to perform required duties may an employer use this information. Under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, employers cannot use medical information or the fact an applicant filed a workers' compensation claim to discriminate against applicants. (42 USC @12101)

  • Bankruptcies. Bankruptcies are public record. However, employers cannot discriminate against applicants because they have filed for bankruptcy. (11 USC @525)

    **Aren't some of my personal records confidential?

    The following types of information may be useful for an employer to make a hiring decision. However, the employer is required to get your permission before obtaining the records. (For more information, see PRC Fact Sheet No. 11, "From Cradle to Grave: Government Records and Your Privacy.")

  • Education records. Under both federal and California law, transcripts, recommendations, discipline records and financial information are confidential. A school should not release student records without the authorization of the student or parent. However, a school may release *directory information*, which can include name, address, dates of attendance, degrees earned, and activities, unless the student has given written notice otherwise. (California Education Code @@ 67100, 76200; 20 USC @1232g)
  • Military service records. Under the federal Privacy Act, service records are confidential and can only be released under limited circumstances. Inquiries must be made under the Freedom of Information Act. Even without the applicant's consent, the military may release name, rank, salary, duty assignments, awards and duty status. (5 USC @@ 552, 552a)

  • Medical records. In California, medical records are confidential. There are only a few instances when a medical record can be released without your knowledge or authorization. If employers require physical examinations after they make a job offer, they have access to the results. The Americans with Disabilities Act allows a potential employer to inquire only about your ability to perform specific job functions. (California Civil Code @ 56.10; 42 USC @12101)

    There are other types of questions such as age and marital status and certain psychological tests that employers cannot use when interviewing. These issues are beyond the scope of this fact sheet. If you have further questions, look under "For more information" at the end of this fact sheet or call the PRC Hotline.

    **What can my former employer say about me?

    Often a potential employer will contact an applicant's past employers. A former boss can say anything [truthful] about your performance. However, most employers have a policy to only confirm dates of employment, final salary, and other limited information. California law prohibits employers from intentionally interfering with former employees' attempts to find jobs by giving out false or misleading references. (California Labor Code @ 1050)

    Documents in your personnel file are not confidential and can be revealed by an employer. Only medical information in a personnel file is confidential. If you are a state or federal employee, however, your personnel file is protected under the California Information Practices Act or the federal Privacy Act of 1974 and can only be disclosed under limited circumstances. Under California law, employees have a right to review their own personnel files, and make copies of documents they have signed. (California Civil Code @ 56.20; California Labor Code @@432, 1198.5; California Government Code @ 1798; 5 USC @552a)

    **Does the applicant have a right to be told when a background check is requested?

    The *only* times an applicant must be told if a background check is conducted is if the employer requests an "investigative consumer report" or a credit report. The investigative consumer report may contain information about your character, general reputation, personal characteristics and lifestyle. The information in the report is typically compiled from interviews with neighbors, friends, associates and others who might have information about you.

    Under both California and federal law, the applicant must be notified if an employer requests an investigative consumer report. (California Civil Code @ 1786; 12 USC @1681d. Also see Fact Sheet No. 6, "How Private is My Credit Report?")

    An employer can also order a copy of your credit report, which is less detailed than an investigative report. However, a credit report can still tell an employer a lot about you. It may contain public records information such as court cases, judgments, bankruptcies and liens; also, outstanding credit accounts and loans, and the payment history for each account. Credit report entries remain in the report for up to ten years.

    In California, if an employer checks your credit file, you must be notified and given an opportunity to see the file. Also, when a report is requested for employment purposes, the credit bureau must block all references to age, marital status, race, religion and medical information. Although federal and state laws allow credit bureaus to include criminal record information, it is an industry policy not to do so. (California Civil Code 1785.18, 1785.20.5)

    **What can the job applicant do to prepare?

    Although you cannot *prevent* an employer from doing a background check, you can take steps to be ready for questions the employer might ask once the investigation is conducted.

  • Order a copy of your credit report. If there is something you do not recognize or that you disagree with, dispute the information with the creditor or credit bureau before you have to explain it to the interviewer. (See PRC Fact Sheet No. 6, "How Private is My Credit Report?")

  • Check public records files. If you have an arrest record or have been involved in court cases, go to the county where this took place and inspect the files. Make sure the information is correct and up to date. Request a copy of your driving record from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), especially if you are applying for a job that may involve driving.

  • Ask to see a copy of your personnel file from your old job. Even if you do not work there anymore, you have a right to see your file until at least a year from the last date of employment. You are allowed to make copies of documents in your file that have your signature on them. (California Labor Code @ 432.) You may also want to ask if your former employer has a policy about the release of personnel records. Many companies limit the amount of information they disclose.

  • Read the fine print carefully. When you sign a job application, you may also be signing a statement that waives your right to a copy of your credit report. You might also be authorizing the disclosure of other personal data, such as educational records, medical records and financial data. Unfortunately, jobseekers are in an awkward position, since refusing to authorize a background check may jeopardize the chances of getting the job.

  • Tell neighbors and work colleagues, past and present, that they might be asked to provide information about you. This helps avoid suspicion and alerts you to possible problems.

  • If you feel comfortable, ask the interviewer about the company's employee privacy policies. Find out if the potential employer plans to do a background check, and ask to see a copy.

    **For more information

  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (see the Government Pages in your phone book).
  • California Labor Commission (see the Government Pages in your phone book).
  • Pacific Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center for questions about the Americans with Disabilities Act, (800) 949- 4232.
  • Documented Reference Check, (800) 742-3316 (verifies references of former employers; fee charged).

    If you have additional questions about privacy, contact the PRC Hotline at (800) 773-7748.

    Copyright 1994 Center for Public Interest Law
    August 1994

    [Reprinted with permission]

    The Clearinghouse is a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating Californians about personal privacy issues. It is funded by a grant from the Telecommunications Education Trust and operates under the auspices of the University of San Diego School of Law's Center for Public Interest Law.


    Twenty Clinical Truths About RSI
    >From Peter Bower, M.D. <>:

    1. RSI is not just one thing.

    2. You don't need to have much repetition to induce it.

    3. If you smoke, you always get it worse.

    4. If anti-inflammatory medications work, you didn't have a bad case.

    5. All the ergonomic workstation modifications in the world won't make a significant difference if you don't correct your posture and start taking care of yourself.

    6. If you're under stress, you'll do worse.

    7. If you've had it for more than three months and are told it's "just tendinitis," you can be sure it's not tendinitis.

    8. If you're seeing an M.D. who says he or she doesn't know what you have, you've found an honest physician.

    9. If you're told to have carpal tunnel or cubital tunnel surgery and you have a normal EMG test, find another surgeon.

    10. If you haven't gotten an opinion from a skilled physiatrist and/or osteopath, you should without delay.

    11. Splints are fine only if they work.

    12. Ice is fine only if it works.

    13. Heat is fine as long as you apply it to muscles in spasm.

    14. If you're sick of taking pills of one sort or another and they don't work, you're not alone.

    15. If physical therapy flares up your symptoms without producing a distinct improvement in function over the next several days, that type therapy is causing more harm than good.

    16. The "natural" supplements like B6 and Omega-3 fatty acids won't hurt as long as you don't drown yourself with mega-doses.

    17. Most people with RSI have a variation on the "double crush" or thoracic outlet syndrome to one degree or another - _see_Issue_17_.

    18. Addressing just the painful part in therapy and not the entire neck to fingertips is substandard treatment.

    19. Insurance companies are uniformly ignorant, or obstructionist, or both, when it comes to treating these problems.

    20. The clearest clinical measure of these conditions by physical examination is by the upper limb tension testing technique described by Robert Elvey, P.T. If you have access to a therapist or physician who knows about this, you'll get a clear picture of the underlying problem.

    Dr. Bower treats many RSI sufferers. The techniques he uses in the diagnosis and treatment of RSI are from many disciplines, including traditional allopathic (M.D.) medicine, osteopathy, and Elvey's techniques of physical therapy. Contact Dr. Bower in Sebastopol CA at (707)829-7596.

    [These references to the Elvey technique appeared in a subsequent issue:

    >> "Brachial plexus tension tests and the pathoanatomical
        origin of arm pain"
        Elvey R.L. (1979)
        In: Glasgow E.F., Twomey L, _Aspects_of_manipulative_therapy_.
        Melbourne. Lincoln Institute of Health Sciences. 1979: 105-110.
    >> "Treatment of arm pain associated with abnormal brachial
        plexus tension"
        Elvey R.L.
        Australian Journal of Physiotherapy 1986: Vol 32 No 4.
    >> "The upper limb tension test - the S.L.R. of the arm"
        Kenneally, Rubenach, Elvey (1988)
        In: Grant R, (ed) _Clinics_in_Physical_Therapy._The_cervical_
        _and_thoracic_spine_. Churchill Livingstone: New York. 1988.
    >>  MacKinnon S.E.
        (the first American M.D. to report the use of the Elvey Test
        clinically in the diagnosis of brachial and peripheral neuropathies).
        Hand Clinic Vol 8 No 2 May 1992
    >>  _Mobilization_of_the_Nervous_System_. David Butler.

    - ed.]

    [Reprinted with permission from the RSI Network Newsletter, copyright 1994 Caroline Rose]

    To subscribe to the newsletter:

    Send a mail message to: <>

    The Subject doesn't matter. Put this into the body of your message just as it appears here:

    subscribe rsi

    For more information about The RSI Network Newsletter, contact .



    Chicago, IL, USA
    March 3-4, 1995

    Sponsored by the
    Center for Urban Economic Development,
    University of Illinois at Chicago



    (please repost and distribute freely)

    The Technology Revolution is touching every aspect of our lives. Its impact has perhaps been most profound on the way things are made, and with it, on jobs.

    The Midwest Conference on Technology, Employment and Community will focus on the impact of the Technology Revolution on economic life, and its social consequences. With the impact of new technologies on production, transportation, and communications, we are entering a new historical period of change.

    The conference is appropriately set in Chicago, once synonymous with heavy industry. But with the shrinkage and disappearance of the steel mills, the meat-packing plants, and other large scale production, the industrial job loss has devastated many of Chicago's working class neighborhoods. This pattern has been repeated in communities throughout the region.

    At the same time though, the productivity of new technologies offers great promise for satisfying the basic needs of all citizens, of delivering the world's information to every home, and of providing new and exciting ways of developing as human beings.

    This conference will provide an opportunity for scholars, community leaders, trade unionists, and anyone else concerned about the future of their communities and livelihood to discuss the impact and possibilities of the Technology Revolution, and look at how new technologies can be deployed to raise everyone's standard of living. The conference will also provide technology demonstration sites, and provide opportunities to learn about the new technologies.

    The Midwest Conference on Technology, Employment and Community will mix plenary sessions with workshops. We encourage your participation both through attending the conference and through conducting a workshop or organizing a panel. We are currently soliciting workshop proposals. We suggest proposals on the themes below, but any topic related to the conference purpose is welcome. Community activists and off-campus researchers are encouraged to organize panels.

     Employment                      Community
      + Impact of technology on       + Impact of technology on
        industries                       communities
      + Job development               + Community technology
      + Future of work and the job    + Future of the neighborhood
      + Unions and technology         + Youth opportunities
      + Job training                  + Virtual communities
      + Plant closing alternatives    + Health care and technology
      + Technology, health and safety + New forms of racism
      + NAFTA, globalization          + Human capacity building
     Communication and Information   Technology
      + The future of schools         + Who calls the shots?
      + Community networks            + Future technologies
      + The future of libraries       + Access to technology
      + Universal access              + Measuring social impact
      + The NII
      + Meeting diverse needs        Skills
                                      + Non-profits and computers
     Democracy                        + Non-profits and the Internet
      + Privacy
      + Access to information
      + Electronic town meetings
      + Technologies of surveillance and control
      + The new eugenics movement

    Workshops and panels will be an hour and half in length. The proposal should include title, presenter, purpose of workshop, references, and plan. We encourage workshops that substantially involve the audience; and proposals in which some group product or action plan is created are preferred. As the proposals may be collected into a book, workshop proposals should be clear and informative to people who don't participate in the workshop.

    Proposals are due January 8, 1995 and acceptance and rejection notices will be sent by February 1, 1995. Electronic submissions are encouraged but paper versions are also acceptable.

    To reach the Midwest Conference on Technology, Employment and Community:

    By Email:

    By Phone: (312) 996-5463

    By Fax: (312) 996-5766

    By Mail:   Conference on Technology, Employment and Community
               Center for Urban Economic Development
               400 South Peoria, Suite 2100
               University of Illinois - Chicago
               Chicago, IL 60607

    To participate in discussions around the conference and conference issues, join the JOB-TECH mailing list. Send the following message:



    Date: Sun, 11 Sep 1994 21:25:54 EDT
    From: LANFRAN%VM1.YORKU.CA%YORKVM1.BITNET@Sdsc.Edu (Sam Lanfranco)
    Subject: Conference on Occupational Stress and Health
                      WORK,   STRESS,   AND   HEALTH  '95:
                        CREATING  HEALTHIER  WORKPLACES.
                   The Third Interdisciplinary Conference on
                         Occupational Stress & Health.
                 Wednesday - Saturday,  September  13-16, 1995
                    Hyatt Regency Hotel,  Washington,  D.C.
                               CALL  FOR  PAPERS
    Workshop proposal deadline:                             January  3, 1995
    Paper, poster, and symposium proposal deadline:         January 27, 1995
    Sponsors: American Psychological Association (APA)
              National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
              U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)
              U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM)
    "Work, Stress, and Health '95: Creating Healthier Workplaces" is the
    third interdisciplinary conference on occupational stress and health
    sponsored jointly by the American Psychological Association (APA) and
    the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).  APA
    and NIOSH are pleased to welcome the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and
    the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) as sponsors for the
    current conference.
    "Work, Stress, and Health '95: Creating Healthier Workplaces" will build
    upon the two preceding meetings: "Work and Well-Being: An Agenda for the
    1990's," (November, 1990), and "Stress in the 90's: A Changing Workforce
    in a Changing Workplace," (November, 1992).  The four conference themes
    and the list of conference topics (below) identify many of today's
    cutting-edge issues in occupational stress research and prevention.
    Researchers, health and mental health practitioners, managers, and human
    resources personnel are invited to submit proposals for paper/poster
    presentations, workshops, and symposia on new research findings,
    prevention/intervention programs, and policy that address any of four
    major conference themes:
         with special emphasis on organizational restructuring, realignment,
         downsizing, and the impact on individuals, families, and the
         emphasis on the contingent workforce, child labor, issues of
         diversity and the changing workforce, and lifestyle and privacy
    3.   WORKPLACE VIOLENCE:  including job stress risk factors; prevalence;
         effects on workers, families, and organizations; prevention
         practices, and policies.
         job stress intervention strategies; healthcare costs of stress;
         international policies, legislation and standards; and evaluation
    Please refer all requests for printed announcements, additional
    information, and questions regarding submissions to:
    Lynn A. Letourneau                      Phone:    202-336-6124
    Occupational Health Conference          Fax:      202-336-6117
    American Psychological Association      Internet:
    750 First Street, NE
    Washington, DC  20002-4242
    NOTE:     Submissions must be made in printed form.  Submissions by FAX
              and electronic mail are not possible at this time.


    Virtual Contractor is a free service helping people link up with computer contractors and consultants. See file:// David Cook also offers a page on creating a WWW home page, file:// /pub/iceman/VC/hpa.html, and other "COOKWARE" services, file:// [, c.i.w, 7/21/94. net-hap.]

    The marketable skills these days are Windows, Visual Basic, AutoCAD, MacroMedia Director, Oracle, Novell, Unix administration and kernel hacking, etc. -- all with three years experience and no "geezer" quibbles from you about your health insurance, vesting, or working hours. Join IEEE or ACM for their group insurance. (COBRA gives you group health insurance rates for 18 months after a layoff, but only if your company is solvent.) Become the only one who knows how something really important works, and learn enough corporate politics to stay employed. It couldn't hurt to marry a lawyer. While you're working, moonlight as a contract software developer or write shareware to brag about later. (You sure won't earn any money from it.) Build up salable skills for when the company goes bust, downsizes, or gets bought. Start a sole proprietorship now as an IRS "hobby business" and get a "company" credit card (e.g., as a "second name" on your personal credit card), then buy stuff to build up a few years of good credit references for later when you need to open accounts with vendors. Refinance your mortgage while you still have a job, since doing so later could enter a zero salary on your TRW credit record. [Bill Park (, 9/8/94.]

    [The above two items are from the THE COMPUTIST's COMMUNIQUE of Sept. 15, 1994, for a sample issue or for more info on TCC, write -ed.]


    About The YSN (The Young Scientists' Network) ---------------------------------------------

    The goals of this group, linked by computer electronic mail are:

    1) To let the press, public, and government officials know that there is currently no shortage of scientists. Indeed, young scientists are encountering unprecedented difficulty finding jobs.

    2) To discuss how young scientists can find both traditional and non-traditional careers.


    The YSN is not an organization in the conventional sense of the word. There are no membership requirements or fees and the services of the YSN are maintained by volunteers. The primary activity of the YSN is the production of the electronic Young Scientists' Digest which is sent out to over 3000 persons almost every day. The digest is administrated by John Quackenbush and contains the unedited contributions of digest subscribers. The Moderated YSN Digest, a weekly summary of the regular YSN Digest, is edited by Jennifer Cohen.

    A job list, which contains job openings which have been submitted to the YSN, is maintained by Mary Ellen Scott. The YSN archive is maintained by Arthur Smith and contains old issues of the YSN Digest as well as copies of articles relating to young scientist employment and information on alternative careers.

    Letters from and articles about our group have appeared on American Public Radio, in The Chronicle of Higher Education, the New York Times, Science, and various society publications. (Further references available in the YSN archive)

    Discussion topics in the YSN digest have included career and family, interviewing and job hunting tips, community college employment, the nature of tenure, graduate curriculum reform, funding (or underfunding) of science and engineering, and just about every aspect of life as a young scientist facing an uncertain career.


    Letters from YSN members in 1991 helped initiate a Congressional investigation of the NSF over the way it handled the 'shortage' reports, and a hearing was held April 8, 1992 at which the YSN founder, Kevin Aylesworth, testified (Science, v. 256, 1992, p. 172 & Nature, v. 356, 1992, p. 553).

    Hundreds of letters from YSN members were also instrumental in the cancellation of the Department of Labor's Pilot Information Program which asserted that there was a shortage of personnel with advanced degrees in certain technical fields.

    YSN members have been invited to meetings with leaders of the physics community, the staff of former President Bush's science advisor (Allan Bromley), and the former director of the NSF (Walter Massey). Recently two YSN members, nominated by petition, were elected to serve as American Physical Society general councilors.

    There have been both formal and informal gatherings of YSN members at numerous professional meetings. Presentations have been made at the Neural Information Processing Systems conference (1992), the American Society of Biochemists and Molecular Biologists annual meeting (1993), Division of Atomic, Molecular, and Optical Physics annual meeting (1992), the Fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (1993) and others.


    Discussions in the YSN Digest often refer to "The Myth." This refers to the once common pronouncement that the US will soon face a shortage of scientists. "The Myth" was largely based on a flawed NSF report, which was discredited at the congressional hearings mentioned above.

    "Stories about the supposed crisis appeared in newspapers and journals -- even as many young scientists, newly minted Ph.D.s in hand, were pounding the pavement in search of work. For some, the news stories were merely depressing, but for Kevin Aylesworth [...] they served as a catalyst. Aylesworth founded the Young Scientists' Network ..." (From Science vol 256, 1 May 1992, p. 606)

    (For more information, check the YSN archives, see below)


    Correspondence and subscription requests for both the moderated and unmoderated newsletters should be directed to John Quackenbush at Anonymous contributions to the digest should be sent to the same address. Regular contributions to the digest should be sent to .

    To receive the current jobs list, send electronic mail with "send" as the subject to .

    The YSN archive can be reached by anonymous ftp to or by any World Wide Web browser (mosaic, lynx, etc.) at the URL For more information contact .

    For further information about the YSN, contact any one of the volunteers below. A list of YSN members willing to speak with journalists can be obtained from John Quackenbush at the address below.

    Founder: Kevin Aylesworth
    Cambridge, MA
    Phone (617) 491-9872

    John Quackenbush
    Stanford Human Genome Center
    Stanford University Department of Genetics
    855 California Avenue
    Palo Alto, CA 94304
    (415) 812-1915
    FAX: (415) 812-1916

    Jennifer M. Cohen
    22 S. Prince St., #3
    Shippensburg, PA 17257
    (717) 530-5098

    Mary Ellen Scott
    University of Akron Chemistry Dept.
    Akron, Ohio 44325-3601
    (216) 972-8392
    (216) 234-7943 (home)


    LET THEM EAT CAKE: DIGITAL EQUIPMENT lost $2.1 billion in the fiscal year that ended last July. Over 9,000 jobs were cut last spring as part of a massive "downsizing" effort, which, when the smoke clears, will mean some 70,000 DEC jobs will have disappeared since 1989. Pity the poor executives there. The pay for the top 5 execs went up 70% last year. CEO Robert Palmer received stock options that exceeded, on paper at least, his $900,000 salary. VP Enrico Pesatori got an 18% raise. The execs who lost jobs did okay too: sales head Edward Luciente got a $630,000 settlement; consulting chief Gresham Brebach Jr. walked with $500,000. (_Business Week_ 10/3/94). And over at Borland, even though the company lost $370 million in the fiscal year that ended last March, CEO Philippe Kahn received favorably priced options to purchase 1 million shares. (_Business Week_, 9/12/94)

    JOBS: BELL ATLANTIC announced in August that it was taking a $150 million charge for reducing its workforce by 5,500 over the next three years as it consolidates offices that handle billing, maintenance and other functions. According to the _Wall Street Journal_ piece, "all seven Bells are looking to cut costs and work forces..." (8/15/94). HUGHES ELECTRONICS, a GM unit, will layoff 4,400 workers through 1995, or 10% of its workforce. (_USA Today_, 9/18/94). NOVELL, as expected, announced in August that it would lay off 1,750 workers. That's 17% of the combined workforce of Novell and Wordperfect. (_USA Today_, 8/25/94) On the heels of its takeover of Aldus, Adobe announced it was cutting the workforce of the combined operation 20%, or some 400 jobs. QUARTERDECK reported in August it was cutting 25% of its workforce (55 employees) (_WSJ_, 8/19/94).

    And this from our European correspondent:

    SEL, the German Branch of the Telecom Goliath Alcatel will reduce its workforce by more then *5000* people in the next months. Restructuring activities in 1993 and 1994 have already dropped the companies workforce below 20.000.

    From 1992 until now Siemens-Nixdorf had reduced its workforce from 48,000 to 39,200. Till the end of this year, 2,000 more Siemens- Nixdorf employees will lose their jobs.

    A BRIGHT SPOT: Germany's largest labor union has won a dispute with IBM's German subsidiary. An industry tribunal in Hamburg ruled that IBM cannot unilaterally impose a 38-hour work week on IG Metall members whose contract specifies a work week of only 36 hours. (_Investor's Business Daily _11/28/94)

    RSI BITS: COMPAQ said it will begin placing warning labels on its keyboards. In a bit of whistling past the graveyard, "Compaq said the labels... aren't an admission that keyboards cause injuries. It said it still believes there are no scientific studies showing a link between keyboards and hand-and-arm disorders," according to the _WSJ_ (8/17/94) Earlier this year, a Houston jury found that Compaq didn't know that its computers could cause injuries, and therefore wasn't obliged to warn users. But, the article notes, "ignorance may be a tougher defense in the future." Product liability expert and law professor Michael Rustad says that computer companies might be able to provide a future defense against product liability through the labeling.

    Perhaps this is what has the companies nervous: More than 2000 lawsuits for Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI) have been filed against computer equipment manufacturers. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) plans to make employers redesign jobs with high risk for RSI, such as ones that require many hours of keyboarding a day. (_Time_ 10/24/94).

    The _SF Chronicle_ reports that California's Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board is planning to weaken workplace ergonomic standards set to go into effect on January 1. The original standards would require employers to diagnose and report "cumulative trauma disorders", which includes RSI. Under the revised rules, small business would be exempt, and businesses would only have to implement the measures where "economically feasible." (9/15/94)

    "THE MOBILE OFFICE": COMPAQ partly credits moving its salesforce into home offices for reducing sales and administrative expenses to 12% of revenue, down from 22%. But workers often find the switch a sacrifice, and subtly demoralizing. "It was as if they were saying, 'we need to save money, so we'll make out employees pay the bills,'" says Wayne Wolfinger, a service rep for another company making the switch to the "mobile office". Says Compaq vice president of operations: "People are now thinking and working on the job 12 to 18 hours a day."

    TURMOIL IN DE-REGULATED PHONE INDUSTRY: "On the eve of divestiture [in 1984], AT&T was the world's largest private employer with over one million employees....Since divestiture AT&T has eliminated some 140,000 bargaining unit jobs, while it has established and purchased major nonunion subsidiaries....Since October 1993, major corporate restructurings accelerated [among the Regional Bell Operating Companies or RBOCs, the companies that were created as a result of the AT&T divestiture]...US West announced the elimination of 9,400 jobs...Bell South said it was eliminating 10,800 jobs...GTE announced the elimination of 17,000 jobs...Pacific Telesis said it would downsize by 10,000 jobs at Pacific Bell... AT&T declared it would eliminate another 15,000 jobs on top of already scheduled force reductions of 6,000 operator and call servicing positions and 7,500 jobs at Global Information Solutions, formerly NCR...Ameritech said it would reduce its workforce by 6,000...NYNEX...scaled back its plans to eliminate 22,500 jobs to 16,800 positions....

    "From the standpoint of labor-management relations, this massive industrial restructuring is in jeopardy of severing the traditional link between high productivity growth through rapid technological change and rising employee incomes with employment security. When compared to the decade prior to divestiture, post- divestiture productivity growth has fallen by one-half as networks are duplicated and many of the one million employees in the industry now face chronic insecurity, displacement, and stagnating incomes. Breaking the industry's social contract through this uncoupling may have serious long term consequences for productivity, service quality, and stable labor-management relations."

    [from "Telecommunications Labor-Management Relations One Decade After the AT&T Divestiture," a paper presented by Jeffrey Keefe, Institute of Management and Labor Relations, Rutgers University, and Karen Boroff, Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, at the conference on "International Developments in Workplace Innovation: Implications for Canadian Competitiveness," Park Plaza Hotel, Toronto, June 15 and 16, 1995, pages 1-5.]

    UPDATE: In CPU.011, we reported on the 235 workers at SPRINT subsidiary LA CONEXION FAMILIAR who were fired last July, one week before a union vote. To bring readers somewhat up-to-date: In September, the National Labor Relations Board ordered Sprint to hire back all of the workers in what is considered one of the largest unfair labor practice cases in history. "[T]he information superhighway -- hyped for its technology -- us still plagued by thorny workplace issues," wrote the _SF Chronicle_ (9/23/94). In other union-related issues, human rights activists have accused SONY of blocking union organizing at its Nuevo Laredo, Mexico plant. The plant employs 2,000 workers, mostly women, making magnetic tapes and floppy disks. The charges have been filed with the National Administrative Office, which oversees provisions of the NAFTA accord. Similar complaints have been filed against U.S. companies HONEYWELL and GENERAL ELECTRIC.

    NET WORKERS, UNITE!: Organized labor has discovered networking. Canada's SoliNet (Solidarity Computer Conferencing Network) is the only nationwide computer network owned and operated by a labor union. The AFL-CIO operates a private online conference on CompuServe, and the Communications Workers of America use a network to strategize their next challenge to management. "When hard times hit, it all comes down to information -- who has it, and when you get it," says a labor organizer working with Digital Equipment Corp. employees.

    The article ends with the following note of relevance to CPU readers: "But will white-collar workers actually want to organize around specific issues with their blue-collar brethren? Online chat and story swapping is one thing, but taking action is quite another. All that can be measured now is a temperament. There are signs that a growing number of people--both blue- and white- collar--are open to the possibility of joint action. 'What's needed are pioneer efforts by volunteers,' says one Digital worker in an E-mail posting on the LaborNet. 'I'd be proud to work with them.'" (Information Week 8/22/94)

    TECHNOLOGICAL INHERITANCE BELONGS TO ALL OF US: In October's "Technology Review," Gar Alperovitz argues that the $8 billion in Bill Gates' bank account was derived through thousands of links in a chain of technological development, largely funded by government research. "Plainly put, the way we allocate the benefits of present and past economic activity that stem from the technological inheritance is irrational and unjust." Alperovitz calls for a new economic system based on the notion of common inheritance of wealth generated through government-funded R&D. (_Technology Review_ 10/94)

    EXPORTING WHITE-COLLAR JOBS: L.A. Times columnist Michael Schrage suggests that successful implementation of the Global Information Infrastructure may result in the exporting of information- intensive jobs to less expensive labor markets -- sort of white- collar maquiladoras. For instance, Motorola has moved its Iridium project's software production overseas to India where Bangalore is already the second-largest software producing area after Silicon Valley. (_Telecommunications Policy Review_ 9/25/94)

    NOT ENOUGH WOMEN AND NOT ENOUGH PROGRAMMERS: An executive of the Software Human Resources Council in Ottawa says that "women are definitely under-represented at all levels, in virtually all jobs" in the information technology field. He also says that Canada's computer industry is short about 4,000 software professionals, adding that the reason for the shortage is that development departments are sweatshops. (_Toronto Globe & Mail_ 10/18/94)

    [Thanks to Educom for several of these pieces.]


    "Many other locals seem thrilled [about Woodstock '94 being in their neighborhood]. The region's economy has been hurting since IBM closed its Kingston plant in 1992. Many of the former IBM workers are renting their front lawns to vendors and their backyards to campers." (_Chicago Sun-Times_, 8/12/94)

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